Crazed shoppers have been bargain hunting since before dawn. Radio stations have started sneaking in the holiday tunes. And look at you. You can't even believe you're already reading the first NHL JerseyWatch of 2016 — and there are still 34 days left in 2015!
It's Black Friday and the Christmas season is unofficially upon us. Over the last week we've seen the release of the final batch of NHL jerseys slated for the 2015-16 season — surely leading to expanded holiday wish lists for legions of hockey fans.
So is it too soon to wonder what jerseys you might be wishing for a year from now? It absolutely is. But that won't stop us from doing it anyway — because Reebok is already preparing retailers for their 2016-17 product orders.
Thanks to a confidential source, Icethetics readers are now about to be treated to a very early Christmas gift in the form of the first edition of NHL JerseyWatch 2016!
Because it is so early — remember our first JerseyWatch of 2015 came well into March — much of what follows is speculative and subject to change. It's based almost entirely on what Reebok is telling retailers. So don't assume any of it is written in stone just yet.
Obviously we can't talk about the 2016-17 season without acknowledging the league's fast approaching centennial. The NHL turns 100 years old in November 2017, but it's likely they'll start celebrating next season and continue into 2017-18.
Keep in mind, had it not been for the lockout that canceled the 2004-05 season, 2016-17 would have been the NHL's 100th season. While they have yet to officially announce any plans for their triple-digit anniversary, it's likely we'll get all manner of throwback jerseys throughout the year.
I'd also be shocked if there isn't a special centennial logo. In fact, I'd imagine it's already designed or at least in the final stages of approval by now.
2016 World Cup of Hockey
Just before the first puck drops on the 2016-17 NHL season, the league is reviving the World Cup of Hockey in Toronto — where the local team happens to be celebrating its centennial too.
Why is this worthy of NHL JerseyWatch coverage? Two major reasons: 1) the 2016 World Cup of Hockey is being put on by the NHL and NHLPA; and 2) it'll see the first batch of jerseys produced under the league's new partnership with Adidas.
Eight teams will be participating in the World Cup and without the anti-commercial rules of the International Olympic Committee getting in the way, I imagine will be seeing more of the logos used by each nation's governing hockey body. These, for example.
For demonstration purposes I've used the circle of stars from the European Union flag for Team Europe and one of the team logos from the 2000 NHL All-Star Game in Toronto to represent Team North America. Top row is Group A; bottom row is Group B.
As for what the jerseys will look like, there's no telling at this point. But I'm sure the folks at Adidas are already well into the design process. After all, the tournament is just 9 months away. The first puck drops on Sept. 17, 2016 and gold will be awarded on Oct. 1.
Now we can start digging into the NHL teams with new jerseys in play next year!
Reebok is telling retailers to expect a new third jersey for the Oilers in 2016-17. Odds are good that we're looking at a promotion for the orange throwback the club is wearing this season — their last at Rexall Place.
As a specialty sweater, it can only be worn a handful of times in a season. As a third jersey, it can used for 12 to 15 games a year. And the design has been wildly popular in Edmonton. I can't imagine the Oilers going in any other direction if a new third is indeed coming next year.
According to Reebok, the Panthers are mulling new home and road sweaters. The team last updated their primary look in 2011 when they switched from navy blue back to red for their home jersey. They also ditched the ugly yellow piping that plagued them in 2007.
This is the first I'm hearing of potential changes for Florida, but it might not be a bad idea. I wouldn't exactly call them one of the best looking teams in the league. Perhaps a retro design is in the works? The Coyotes have proven with their black throwback that the triangular shoulder yoke can work in the Reebok Edge world, so maybe the Cats are planning to take advantage of that.
By the way, the Panthers' 25th anniversary is in 2017-18. You'll see the anniversary thing becoming a theme as we continue with this post.
Los Angeles Kings
Next year the Kings will mark 50 years in the NHL. It's a major milestone so it's no surprise Reebok has them down for a "special edition" jersey in 2016-17. I'm not sure what that means exactly, but one can probably guess another throwback is in the works.
The Kings currently wear a gold retro jersey for their Legends Night games — there are usually three or four per season. They previously used a purple (or Forum blue) version. Perhaps it's as simple as seeing that make a comeback.
It could also be a new retro design, like something from the 1980s just before the Gretzky era of silver and black. Then again it could be those Gretzky jerseys. The Kings don't have a ton of sweater design options in their history. They've been fairly consistent over the years. But there's enough there to get something new for a "special edition" jersey.
The Senators scared the Internet with this monstrosity of a logo back in July. They shared it in that one tweet and I can't recall seeing it again after that — so maybe they're coming to their senses.
Point is, the Sens seem to be preparing for their 25th anniversary season next year. As it happens, 2017 is also the 100th anniversary of the original Ottawa Senators club, a founding member of the NHL in 1917. They left Ottawa in 1931 and eventually the franchise folded.
By the way, this is all coinciding with the 150th anniversary of Canada being celebrated in the nation's capital. There are lots of significant anniversaries all happening in the same year, so I have to think logos and jerseys will be created to commemorate it all.
The team is already wearing a throwback third jersey to honor their city's hockey heritage, so maybe a throwback to the early '90s could be on the way? Again, this is all guess work.
The Flyers were part of the same 1967 expansion as the Kings so they too will be celebrating a half-century next season. And wouldn't you know they also have a "special edition" jersey on the way, according to Reebok.
If it's tough to pin down an old Kings jersey we haven't seen in a while, it's practically impossible for Philadelphia. However, from 1982 to 2007, the Flyers wore a very distinctive jersey design. The interesting thing is that it was nearly the same template as that Kings jersey from the 1980s.
Take a look at these designs as rendered by Andrew Greenstein at NHLUniforms.com.
Reebok has already made this type of template work in the AHL (Phantoms) and WHL (Broncos) so it would certainly make sense to carry it over for these throwbacks.
Penguins fans, I don't want to get your hopes up prematurely, but it looks like this could finally be your year. Like L.A. and Philly, Pittsburgh will be marking 50 years in the NHL — and will do so with new home and road sweaters, according to Reebok!
Like you, my mind goes automatically to the retro third jersey that launched last year. It's been extremely popular and the classic gold is so much easier on the eyes. Could it be that the Pens are ready to make that their new home jersey and at a white version for the road?
St. Louis Blues
The Blues are the only other team from the 1967 expansion still in the same city where they started. Their 50th anniversary has them possibly swapping out their third jersey. Reebok is listing the St. Louis alternate as "TBD" — the first big surprise on the list.
That navy blue third jersey is outstanding. To see it replaced would be a gut punch as far as I'm concerned — and I'm not even a Blues fan. But I could understand if we're talking about a true throwback taking its place. When the Blues redesigned their home and road uniforms last season, they were definitely inspired by the past, but those are still new designs.
This team has some great design options to consider if they want to dig into their history.
Tampa Bay Lightning
There's nothing on this from Reebok yet, but I understand through another source the Lightning are mulling a throwback jersey for their 25th anniversary. Perhaps a revival of the sweaters they wore while lifting the Stanley Cup in 2004?
Whether the anniversary is celebrated next season or in 2017-18 remains to be seen. The Bolts did mark their 20th in the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season.
By the way, could you imagine if they brought back the storm third jerseys from the late '90s for a game or two? Now that would be a Reebok Edge jersey worth buying!
Toronto Maple Leafs
Be prepared for the 2016-17 season to be all about Toronto. The club from Canada's biggest city will celebrate 100 years in the NHL. It's going to be a big deal. (They've been preparing for it since 2013!) There's a lot to talk about, so let's start with what Reebok is working on.
The manufacturer tells us the Leafs will redesign their home and road jerseys next year. In addition, it lists another "special edition" jersey under the code "TSP" — likely referring to the Toronto St. Pats, the name the team used from 1919 to 1927.
But there's more than what Reebok is telling us. Howard Berger reported on his blog in August that the Leafs will mimic the Canadiens in wearing as many as five different throwback jerseys over the course of their centennial season — though the Habs actually wore them over two seasons, 2008-09 and 2009-10.
At this point there are no details on designs, but there's a lot in the Leafs' arsenal, including their inaugural jersey from 1917 when they were known as the Toronto Arenas. There's also plenty of worthy speculation in Berger's post.
But that's not all. Toronto is also angling for the 2017 NHL All-Star Game as well as an outdoor game like the Winter or Heritage Classic. It's been reported they will not be seeking the 2016 NHL Draft, however. Regardless, it'll be a busy year for the Leafs.
That's the limit of what we know from Reebok at this point. However, there's still a bit more to discuss in terms of special events during the 2016-17 season.
2017 NHL Heritage Classic
The Winnipeg Jets have been trying to host an outdoor game for a couple of years now but it hasn't quite been in the cards for them. Next year might not be their year either — particularly in light of Toronto's desire to celebrate their centennial in style.
In theory, the Canadiens might make for a good a opponent in a battle of centenarians. However, it's also been reported that Ottawa is eager to host an outdoor game in 2017, which happens to be the nation's sesquicentennial — 150th anniversary. The capital city would love to have the game as part of their celebrations.
Bear in mind the original Ottawa Senators were one of the NHL's founding members in 1917. And the Canadiens will already have three outdoor games under their belt.
For me, the 2017 NHL Heritage Classic match-up that makes the most sense is the Leafs and Sens in Ottawa — especially if Toronto will be hosting All-Star Weekend.
2017 NHL Winter Classic
Some of you will throw rocks at me for suggesting this, but with both teams celebrating their 50th anniversaries next year, a Winter Classic between the Penguins and Flyers seems like a lock. But since both cities have already hosted one, how about a neutral site like Beaver Stadium on the campus of Penn State University?
It might be a little too Pennsylvania-centric to garner interest from the rest of America, but it just seems like an opportunity that's too good to pass up.
2017 NHL Stadium Series
I've brought it up before, but if they can put ice in a southern California stadium, why can't they do it in Florida? The Lightning will be celebrating 25 years next season and the Panthers will do the same a year later. Imagine the Bolts and Cats at Raymond James Stadium in 2017 or 2018.
Or if the weather in the Sunshine State makes that impossible, what about returning to Tropicana Field and renaming it the ThunderDome again for one night? It would energize Florida hockey fans in a big way and would be an absolute blast.
As for other Stadium Series possibilities, St. Louis really deserves one — particularly at Busch Stadium with the Gateway Arch looming overhead. Just don't bring the Blackhawks! How about the Dallas Stars instead as an opponent?
I'd even be in favor of an outdoor game in North Carolina between the Hurricanes and Capitals. Or maybe one at Nissan Stadium in Nashville between the Predators and Blue Jackets. Really I just want to see some new teams keeping all these outdoor games interesting.
2017 NHL All-Star Game
I mentioned earlier that Toronto would love to host during their centennial season and I can't see a good reason why they wouldn't. Montreal got it for their 100th in 2009. The NHL could be in a position to announce the 2017 host during the 2016 All-Star Weekend in Nashville this January or perhaps shortly thereafter.
The last time Toronto hosted was 2000. I've always loved that logo which is why it's the stand-in graphic for this section.
That about wraps it up for the first installment of NHL JerseyWatch 2016. I can't imagine there will be too much more to add before the end of the year, but bookmark this link just in case.